OPINIONIndustry Partners

Grocers Urged to Look for the Silver Lining in ‘Lifestyle Changing’ Times

COVID-19 provides a prime opportunity for food retailers to accelerate family meal promotions
Photograph: Shutterstock

This unfortunate and serious health situation that we find ourselves in, courtesy of COVID-19, commonly know as the coronavirus, has become a “lifestyle changing” experience for everyone.

The hardship placed on restaurants and bars around the country that have been forced to close is heart-wrenching. At the same time, everyone is deeply concerned about the health of their family and friends as the coronavirus rages on.

Meanwhile, grocery stores are for many the only permissible place they are able to go during the mandated safe-distancing lockdowns. With this the case, now is the time for grocers to really focus on customers. With so many venues and events being closed and canceled, now is the time for the community grocer to step up and turn a negative time into one that is a little more positive.

No doubt about it: People are cooking and eating at home much more these days. The neighborhood grocer can make a difference.

This is the opportunity to create a helpful and safe experience for your customers, starting with showing and telling your customers how you are going above and beyond in cleaning, sanitation and maintaining adequate inventory; these things will be important to the perception of your store.

Making sure your team is positive and extra helpful and attentive at these times is also crucial during a time when the American public is more confident and feels safer eating at home. Embrace this extraordinary, eat-at-home opportunity by sharing recipes and preparation methods for baking and grilling and not just microwaving or reheating.

The industry has been promoting eating at home and family meals for years as a public service to encourage consumers to gather around their family tables for homemade meals and conversation. But it will never get a better opportunity than the present time to showcase and promote this important message. What’s more, with many schools now closed until April and beyond, now is the time to talk about family meals more than ever.

Walk a mile in your customers shoes: What would you appreciate from the grocer that serves their community when our nation is in crisis? Be specific in your thinking about this and list the things that you feel will be important in being more helpful to your customers in the area that you serve. Then take these things and make them a reality by rallying your team members and using small groups to determine what, how and who is needed in order to deliver a better experience at this critical time.

Obviously, this is something that needs to be acted upon immediately if you intend to be successful and create a lasting and meaningful impression with the community you serve.

For grocers: This is the time and opportunity to shine a positive light on these darker times for all of us. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of the solution going forward and helping all those who are counting on you to help them stay healthy.

Tom Jackson spent 25 years as president and CEO of the Ohio Grocers Association, three years with the National Grocers Association and seven years as a management consultant in the areas of employee relations, human resources, training and management development, among others. He can be reached at tom@tomjacksonesources.com.

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